Rally México: Day 3 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing one-two ahead of Mexican showdown
TOYOTA GAZOO Racing World Rally Team climbed into first and second overall on the longest day of Rally México, with Sébastien Ogier closing in on a record seventh victory on the event and Elfyn Evans defending second position in an exciting fight ahead of Sunday’s finale.
After a close contest with Esapekka Lappi (Hyundai) on Friday, Ogier came into the day 5.3 seconds from the lead and set a brilliant time to win the first stage of the day – just as an accident for his rival unfortunately brought their battle to an early end.
Even though he had now gained the lead by almost half a minute, Ogier continued to show strong pace through the rest of the morning loop, and then produced an incredible stage win by 8.1s in the first test that ran in the afternoon.
His margin heading into the final day is 35.8s ahead of team-mate Evans. The Welshman increased his advantage to third-placed Thierry Neuville (Hyundai) in the morning’s first stage, but his rival responded with some stage wins to reduce the gap to 4.3s by the end of the day, setting up an exciting showdown for Sunday.
Kalle Rovanperä began the day around one minute from the lead after having to effectively sweep the loose gravel roads on Friday. Still faced with a less advantageous road position than those ahead on the leaderboard, he gained fourth position after Lappi’s exit as he looks to secure more valuable points towards his championship defence.
After a spin that took him off the road on Friday, Takamoto Katsuta restarted this morning in his TGR WRC Challenge Program-supported entry to gain further experience of the Mexican stages on his first appearance on the event.
Jari-Matti Latvala (Team Principal)
“This has been a really good day for us. Our drivers are doing a great job and our car is working well. I feel very sorry for what happened to Esapekka this morning because he had a really good day yesterday and it was an exciting battle between him and Seb up until that point. But Seb loves this rally, he is showing that he is the master of this event and knows that you need to attack it with clean driving, because being aggressive here on these stages doesn’t help you. His gap to his competitors in SS16 is something you don’t see very often these days in the WRC. It’s not over yet though because there’s still a very long and difficult stage to come tomorrow in Otates and Neuville is pushing hard behind Elfyn. Hopefully we can hold onto this one-two and get Kalle home with strong points as well.”
Kalle Rovanperä (Driver car 69)
“It’s been a tough day but quite OK overall. We were trying to have good pace and I felt the driving was good but it seemed the road was getting faster with each car so it was not easy. We also had to use a lot of soft tyres yesterday to give us more grip when cleaning the road, so we had to use some hards this morning which was not ideal. When the gaps in front and behind are quite big it’s always difficult to maintain the speed and stay focused, but we could have some good pace in some stages this afternoon. Tomorrow we’ll just try to have a clean morning and then focus on the Power Stage.”
Elfyn Evans (Driver car 33)
“It’s been a solid day out there and a close fight. Of course, I would have preferred to increase the gap behind us rather than concede some time. Thierry has ever so slightly had the upper hand but it’s been very close on most of the stages with only a few tenths of a second in it. Things have been working well inside the car and I’ve been feeling quite comfortable, but there’s still a big fight on. Tomorrow has a mix of stages with sections we’ve driven already and others we haven’t, so it could be tricky to choose the tyres and nail the setup. But we’ll try to prepare well tonight and do our best to secure the position.”
Sébastien Ogier (Driver car 17)
“I think I can be very satisfied with my day. To be in the lead tonight with a bit of a gap is great, of course. It was another strong day with a bit of a different approach once the battle with Esapekka ended this morning. I felt sorry for him because he was doing a great job. But this is rallying and you have to put three days together to win. After that I tried to stay in more of a safe mode but still we managed to set some good times and increase our lead. It was a surprise to me to see the time in SS16; I was just trying to be very clean and maybe my tyre management helped to make the difference. Tomorrow could still be the trickiest day of the rally with the longest stage to get through, so we cannot afford to relax.”
End of day three (Saturday):
1 Sébastien Ogier/Vincent Landais (Toyota GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID) 2h35m37.6s
2 Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin (Toyota GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID) +35.8s
3 Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe (Hyundai i20 N Rally1 HYBRID) +40.1s
4 Kalle Rovanperä/Jonne Halttunen (Toyota GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID) +1m34.0s
5 Dani Sordo/Cándido Carrera (Hyundai i20 N Rally1 HYBRID) +2m21.2s
6 Gus Greensmith/Jonas Andersson (Škoda Fabia RS Rally2) +10m33.4s
7 Adrien Fourmaux/Alexandre Coria (Ford Fiesta Rally2) +11m05.0s
8 Emil Lindholm/Reeta Hämäläinen (Škoda Fabia Rally2 evo) +11m11.0s
9 Oliver Solberg/Elliott Edmondson (Škoda Fabia RS Rally2) +11m52.2s
10 Kajetan Kajetanowicz/Maciej Szczepaniak (Škoda Fabia Rally2 evo) +12m54.3s
(Results as of 19:00 on Saturday, for the latest results please visit www.wrc.com)
The final day is made up of four different stages, totalling just over 60 kilometres. It kicks off with a fourth visit to the Las Dunas super special, which is followed by the longest stage of the weekend: the 35.63 kilometres of Otates. The last two stages feature sections already driven twice in Saturday’s Derramadero test, with San Diego to precede the rally-ending Power Stage that finishes over El Brinco’s eponymous jump.
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